When families hear the word cancer and their whole world begins to shift, Tom Smith steps in and shows them the way forward. It’s part of his job as a social worker at Lipson Cancer Institute, and it’s part of his personal mission as a cancer patient himself.
Tom had worked with cancer patients for more than a decade when a doctor diagnosed him with pancreatic cancer. In that moment, Tom’s place at Lipson shifted from a dedicated social worker to a concerned patient – and he began to experience first-hand what he had witnessed so many times through his life’s work.
The treatment was, and continues to be, intense. Tom has 51 straight hours of chemo every other week, starting on Friday at Lipson and then continuing at home. He also participated in a series of genetic tests to ensure his sons weren’t at risk and to hopefully reveal something that might help others with a similar diagnosis.
“I’m still able to work full-time, and we’re able to continue with life as it is, except for the weekends that I’m in treatment,” said Tom, who remains positive and committed to supporting others.
It’s an honor to be part of the team at Lipson Cancer Institute, he said. “And I’m so grateful for the care I get as a patient. Dr. Patel, the physician assistants, the clinical nurses, the infusion nurses, the patient techs—all of them—it takes an entire team to care for cancer patients.”
With everything Tom has been dealt in the last six months, he has found the brightest side yet: being able to spend more time with his wife, Cindy. “She’s been by my side, every step of the way, and goes to all my appointments with me. We talk about what’s down the road, what’s going to happen…and right now we’re unsure. So for now, we live in today, and by living in today, we’re able to manage our lives and do the things we want to do.”
And one of the things they want to do is explore all of New York’s state parks. “There are 215 parks in the state. Our goal is to see all of them.”